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Letters: Video Games, National Day Of Listening

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Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

It's Tuesday and time to read from your comments. Several listeners told us they appreciated our segment on what we get from playing first-person shooter games. Kristen(ph) wrote: I don't personally play videogames, but my boyfriend does. He was an infantry scout in Iraq, and the shooter games were actually recommended by his psychiatrist as a way to have him differentiate between what's real and what is not.

Others, including a listener named Bruce, thought we wasted our time. I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. Encouraging sedentary activity with violent themes with the soul-redeeming quality being team building? Wrong on so many levels. By that argument, we should engage in more actual warfare because at least real exercise is experience, building a skill set. Go outside and plant a garden.

On Thanksgiving Day, we talked with Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps about the annual Day of Listening. This year, the focus was on veterans and active-duty military. We asked what question you'd like to ask. Lyle in Lunenburg, Massachusetts couldn't get through on the phone but emailed instead: I wanted to call for those of us who are proud of our fathers despite a strong suspicion that their service was not outwardly as noble as that of their peers. My dad was a soils chemist.

I heard he was a good one. But he died in 1970 when I was 13, and my relationship with him was necessarily passive after that. He had killed himself after all, and therefore no one talked about him. I don't remember how much later it was, decades at least, that mom told me that she remembered of his couple of years at Fort Detrick in the '50s where he served in the Army as a chemist. Dad's work was very secret, but mom was smart and observant. He clearly was troubled by the work and didn't approve of it.

But because he didn't talk at all, not ever, about how he felt about anything and never about what he actually did in the Army, I'll never know the real impact on him of that experience and how much it affected everything else he did with this life. We know that many good men wound up doing things they weren't proud of or serving under leaders whom they disagreed with. I am proud of my dad for everything else that he did, and I tried to call your show to tell how proud I am of my dad no matter what he did because my mother was certain that he felt very badly about what he'd called upon to help create for the Army.

I called you because I'm not the only one with a similar story to tell of not knowing the details, knowing there's no heroism involved and not being able to ever find out. Someday soon, I'm going to get to the place in St. Louis with all the military records and I'll learn everything I can about daddy's service. Then I'll be able to talk to StoryCorps. But even then, I will still never know the real impact of the military on my life. That's what I called to say today.

And finally Louise in Alaska emailed with a complaint about our segment and StoryCorps in general. Too many happy endings, he wrote. What about the stories of the people who struggled and were defeated, or the stories of the people who wound up on the wrong side of history, or the siblings who never reconciled, or the children who couldn't forgive the drunken or absent or abusive parent, the sad and plotting ones who very probably make up the majority of us? I think without these stories also, you only have half a story and a pretty thin one.

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